An Iconic Icelandic Food Is Far Different Than The US Ballpark Staple

While the night sky is illuminated with vibrant colors and the powerful waterfalls cut through the rugged landscape, Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is more than just a picturesque vacation getaway. As many travelers have come to expect, exploring local cuisine is an integral part of the experience. Although there are some traditional foods that deserve mention, one iconic Icelandic food might not have been on some people's radar.

According to Guide To Iceland, the island country has many iconic foods that should be on any visitor's must-try list. Given its proximity to the cold waters, fish is often a staple on the table. Although the pungent fermented shark might be for the brave culinarian, other options are more approachable. Hardfiskur, the fish stew Plokkfiskur, and Icelandic lobster, Humar, are all popular choices. In addition, salmon is often featured on restaurant menus. While all that bounty from the sea is delicious, it is the gem sandwiched inside a bun that is all the rage. Have you had an Icelandic hot dog?

Why Pylsa is the must have Icelandic food

While some people head to Iceland for a dip in the Blue Lagoon or even to traverse a glacier, the Pylsa has become the must-have food for many travelers. Although a quick glance might seem like this dish is similar to the U.S. ballpark staple, that first bite will reveal something quite different about the Icelandic hot dog.

Although many people seek out the Icelandic hot dog, Iceland Travel Guide reports that no one really knows the exact origin. Still, the hot dog has become the most loved and enjoyed bite across the island nation. While there are various ways to enjoy this encased meat, one element remains the same across most of the offerings. Lamb is one of the featured proteins.

According to Icelandic Lamb, the tradition of over 1,000 years of free-range farming in a rugged landscape has created a particular species that offers the highest quality meat. The various greens, herbs, and berries that fill the landscape fortify the sheep's diet which leads to flavorful meat. Although visitors might find it cute to see the sheep roaming the hills during the spring and summer months, that image is part of the reason why the lamb industry has developed a strong following in the food world. And, when that lamb is used in a hot dog, it adds to the robust flavor and overall enjoyment.

What are the typical toppings for an Icelandic hot dog?

While there are various restaurants that serve an Icelandic hot dog or Pylsa, Reykjavik's Bæjarins Beztu is considered the must-have version. According to Wake Up Reykjavik, the restaurant, which translates to "the best in town" has been operating since 1937. The popular way to enjoy one of its hot dogs is topped with crispy onions, sweet mustard, raw onions, ketchup, and remoulade. But, do not expect the ketchup to be similar to that 57 American variety. This version is made from apples.

Although that iconic restaurant has its preferred version, Icelandic Store shares several ways that people serve the Icelandic hot dog. While serving the hot dog on a steamed bun is tasty, it is the two sauces, the pylsusinnep, and remoulade, combined with the other toppings which create the ultimate flavor bomb. The pylsusinnep is a type of sweet, brown mustard. In contrast to the lamb flavor, mustard lightens the robust meat flavor. In contrast, the remoulade, usually a combination of mayo, mustard, and capers, has a creamy yet slightly briny flavor that contrasts the sweetness of the mustard sauce. When enjoyed as a totally composed bite, the Icelandic hot dog hits all the flavor profiles, which is why it continues to be a must-try for visitors.

Can you buy Icelandic hot dogs in the U.S.?

While some people are fortunate to enjoy Icelandic hot dogs in the Arctic Circle, it appears that the classic food offering can be shipped to the U.S. According to Icelandic Mag, The Slaughterhouse of South Iceland secured export licenses in 2017. Previously, the Icelandic Store offered a 10-pack of the Frankfurter sausages available for purchase.

To bring a touch of authentic taste to the home experience, the preferred cooking method is to submerge the hot dogs in hot water or a combination of hot water and beer, per the Icelandic Store. But, the encased meat should not be boiled or it could lose its flavor. In addition, it is recommended to enjoy it with all the toppings. 

For an American twist, consider the way that former President Bill Clinton enjoyed it. According to Atlas Obscura, during a visit to Iceland, Clinton sampled a taste at the infamous Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur that just had mustard on top, which is now referred to as The Clinton. Although the U.S. ballpark staple is dragged through the garden or smothered in chili, one bite of the Icelandic hot dog could make an argument for a more flavorful sausage between the buns.